A Snob's Guide to Rock 'n' Roll

New Times' unholy critical trinity come down from their snooty perch to stop and sneer at the latest musical offerings

Bill Blake, Serene Dominic, Bob Mehr. Three sharply seasoned music critics. Together this trio of rock snobs has lauded thousands of deserving albums up to high heaven and drop-kicked 10 times that number down to the gallows.

But now they've grown tired and jaded, unwilling even to lay their eyes upon the ever-increasing deposits of drivel and dross that record labels dump on their doorsteps -- music reeking of self-importance and masquerading as entertainment. How they long for the days when intentions were pure, a time when they could listen without prejudice and not be reminded of washroom soft-soap dispenser George Michael.

The solution? Turn the whole thing into a game show. Our intrepid group of rock snobs has decided that from now on they'll listen to albums blindfolded -- and to only one cut from each selected at random. Only your host/editor Bob Mehr knows who the guilty music makers are.

Sample king Puff Daddy praying at the altar of MOR godhead Christopher Cross.
Mike Gorman
Sample king Puff Daddy praying at the altar of MOR godhead Christopher Cross.
Three angry snobs are we: New Times' unholy critical trinity. From left, Bob Mehr, Serene Dominic, Bill Blake.
Three angry snobs are we: New Times' unholy critical trinity. From left, Bob Mehr, Serene Dominic, Bill Blake.
Garth Brooks as Chris Gaines: "Rock stars don't have double chins. Start airbrushing, dammit!"
Garth Brooks as Chris Gaines: "Rock stars don't have double chins. Start airbrushing, dammit!"

Now you, dear reader, get the rare opportunity to eavesdrop on a bull session featuring three of the most catty, vain and scatological scribes to ever trash a Kenny G CD. Listen as they make arcane and obscure musical references. Marvel as they snort derisively at the latest pop phenomenon. Thrill to the chest-beating rock 'n' roll snobbery on display here!

Hang on tight as shocking thoughts are revealed and impossible questions answered. Will Bill Blake finally lose his predisposition to liking anything by Iggy Pop? Could Serene Dominic actually admit to enjoying a Celine Dion album? Will Bob Mehr be revealed as a closet Foghat fan? It could happen! So sit back, relax, and enjoy as our rock snobs play . . . Blindman's Buffet!

Richard Thompson
"Cooksferry Queen"
A twangy rockabilly number that kicks off the British guitarist's latest record, Mock Tudor.

Dominic: Ooh, this is Richard Thompson, right?

Blake: This is Richard Thompson? Sounds like John Doe. Makes me long for X. Take it off.

Dominic: Did he say she's his "Cursed Fairy Queen"?

Mehr: No, it's actually "Cooksferry Queen."

Blake: I like "Cursed Fairy Queen" much better.

Mehr: He's a limey, cut him some slack. What about the song?

Dominic: As a critic, you're not allowed to say anything bad about Richard Thompson or they take your promos away. He's good. He's one of those people you respect, but you don't want to hear very often.

Blake: For a guy who's supposed to be from England, he sure sounds like he's from Tex-ass.

Dominic: I like it, but I just can't get too excited over it because I know he'll depress me in the end.

Mehr: How about you, Blake?

Blake: Still makes me long for X. Next.

Incubus
"Privilege"
A none-too-rare (these days, anyway) sounding rap/funk/metal mix that mines Limp Bizkit/Korn territory. From the band's new Epic Records album Make Yourself.

Blake: That guitar gives it all away. It's got late '90s written all over it. It actually makes me long for Faith No More -- not a good thing. These guys have got to be from San Diego.

Mehr: The music is just bad rap-metal, but the singer kind of sounds like the guy from Green Day.

Dominic: Yeah, like he went to the Billie Joe school of elocution.

Mehr: Do you give up?

Blake: How about we don't care.

Mehr: The band is called Incubus and they're from Calabasas, California.

Blake: I was close enough.

Mehr: Well, the weird thing is that this Limp-Korn-sounding piece of shit was produced by Scott Litt -- the guy who produced R.E.M. and the Replacements.

Blake: Dear God, he must be hurting for his house payment.

Mehr: The press release says, "Dear enlightened one, after nearly two solid years of touring with the likes of Korn, Limp Bizkit, Sugar Ray, 311 -- "

Blake: As if you couldn't tell.

Dominic: They're kind of like the '90s version of Men at Work. Remember in the '80s when the Police record was taking so long to finish, Men at Work came along and got huge? This band is trying to fill in the void between the next Korn album.

Blake: They're all overcompensating for their lack of manhood. Listen to those guitars. It's like, "Jesus Christ, how much sperm can you put into those things?"

Mehr: Or lack of sperm.

Blake: And look at their picture. They all have pubes on their chins. Stay away from a band with pube mustaches.

Derailers
"Then She Kissed Me"
A country redux of the Phil Spector/Ronettes classic as it appears on the band's latest Sire effort Full Western Dress.

Dominic: What the fuck is this, the Bellamy Brothers doing the Ronettes?

Blake: Ooh, I'd pay to see that.

Mehr: Come on, Blake, let's keep it clean. There are kids reading. What do you think of the music?

Blake: Must they resurrect this song every three months? How many times can we hear this done in one lifetime?

Dominic: I'm just sick of Nashville country bands doing covers.

Mehr: The band is the Derailers, and they're actually from Austin, Texas.

Blake: Isn't Austin for people who can't make it in Nashville?

Dominic: I guess, but nobody can make it in Nashville these days unless it is shit.

Mehr: They're a good band, it's just a lousy choice for a cover.

Dominic: This is like one of those songs where you can't do anything new to it. And the Wall of Sound shouldn't have any pedal steel, that's a pretty firm rule.

Garth Brooks as Chris Gaines
"Lost in You"
A strangely feminine-sounding ballad from country music's reigning king. The song appears on the album Chris Gaines' Greatest Hits, the pre-soundtrack to Brooks' new "rock" movie project The Lamb.

Dominic: Who is it? A Rickie Lee Jones imitator?

Mehr: No.

Blake: Maria Muldaur?

Mehr: No.

Dominic: El DeBarge?

Mehr: No.

Blake: Tracy Chapman?

Mehr: No! It's a man. I'll give away that much.

Blake: Terence Trent D'Arby?

Mehr: I said it's a man.

Dominic: Richard Marx? Kenny Loggins? I give up. Who is it?

Mehr: Well, the song is called "Lost in You," and the singer is the biggest-selling recording artist in American music history -- Mr. Garth Brooks -- performing as the mythical Australian "rock star" Chris Gaines.

Blake: (choking, coughing up contents of his 40-ounce) You bastard! Are you trying to kill me playing that?

Mehr: The idea behind the record is that he's making a movie called The Lamb where he plays an Australian-born rock star named Chris Gaines, and this is the first single off of the pre-soundtrack to that film. Here's the picture from the cover.

Blake: Jesus!

Mehr: I always thought he had kind of a chubby face. But look at his chin in that picture.

Dominic: Oh, yeah, there's some airbrushing going on there. There's at least one chin missing in action from that picture.

Mehr: What was the verdict on the music?

Dominic: I didn't think it was the worst thing in the world.

Blake: Are you kidding? That was inexcusable.

Dominic: I'm not saying it's good. I'm just saying I wouldn't run screaming from the elevator it's playing in. But then again I would get out when my floor was called.

Blake: I should run screaming from you just for saying that.

Mehr: I have to agree with Blake on this one. It sounds like Babyface doing a Bread song. I'm pretty sure that's one of the seven signs of the apocalypse.

Dominic: What I object to is that he thinks that it's "rock 'n' roll" music.

Blake: So admit it then, it's shite.

Dominic: Yeah, it's shite.

Long John Hunter
"El Paso Rock"
An instrumental blues/R&B cut from a new Norton Records compilation album titled Ooh Wee Pretty Baby.

Dominic: That's garagey sounding.

Blake: This is great, what is this?

Mehr: It's a Long John Hunter, Ooh Wee Pretty Baby. He's a guitarist who played and recorded in El Paso, Texas, in the '50s.

Blake: This is the only good thing I've heard so far.

Dominic: I know, it's great. Listen to the drums. You could flick the flip top of a beer can and it would be louder than the drums.

Mehr: So, basically we're all in agreement that the stuff that a bunch of guys wrote and recorded in one night in a garage in El Paso is pretty much better than everything else you've heard.

Dominic: They should lock Garth Brooks in a garage.

Blake: And then start up the car.

Puff Daddy
"My Best Friend"
A gentle rap/sermon extolling the virtues of a higher power. The track is from his new Bad Boy Records release Forever.

Dominic: I already hate it. It's got wind chimes on it.

Blake: This is how I hear Puff Daddy in 10 years.

Dominic: Jeez, this is supposed to be rap. I hope the wind chimes don't turn into bitch-slappin' music.

Mehr: See if you can pick out the sample.

Dominic: So is this Puff Daddy?

Mehr: Yeah.

Blake: This is Puff Daddy? Goddamn it.

Mehr: But what about the sample? Can you pick it out?

Blake: Is it "Dust in the Wind"?

Dominic: Lionel Richie -- "Hello."

Blake: Oh, Mary mother of God. It's Christopher Cross, isn't it?

Mehr: You got it, Blake. The sample is from Christopher Cross' 1980 hit "Sailing."

Dominic: (incredulous) Of course he brings Christopher Cross back from the dead. Now we have to see his bloated carcass dancing in a shiny suit in those videos with Puff and Mase.

Blake: Man, I was only kidding when I said this is how Puff Daddy is going to sound in 10 years.

Mehr: Can you guess what the song is about?

Dominic: Is it about how money has changed everyone around him except for him?

Mehr: Yeah, he's keepin' it real with those parties he throws at his house in the Hamptons.

Dominic: Yeeaaah, most definitely.

Mehr: The song is called "My Best Friend." The press release says it "features Mario Winans, from the legendary gospel music family. Puff testifies to his salvation. It is a sincere rhyme about Puff's intimate relationship with his god -- "

Dominic: Who's that, Christopher Cross? I guess when you get caught between the moon and New York City, you just gotta get down on your knees and pray.

Mehr: (continues reading) ". . . a song about how his faith and belief in a higher power have delivered him again and again from his tribulations. Like a prayer, the song is completely intimate. There are no excuses made, or even attempts to convert his audience. Just a glimpse into his soul's intentions."

Dominic: So they don't even mention Christopher Cross?

Mehr: No, but he is credited as one of the writers of the song. It's credited to S. Combs, M. Winans and C. Cross.

Blake: Oh, yeah, C. Cross in the house.

Dominic: He's the original Chris Cross, but he can't wear his clothes backward because he's too fat.

Blake: It's so Middle of the Road, it makes me want to puke. Now I have to live through MOR all over again. Dear God (looking upward, shaking his fist), isn't once enough?

Dominic: Well, at least Puff Daddy didn't sample "Think of Laura."

Mehr: That's something.

Dominic: Enough-Daddy, that's what they should call him. What's the name of this album, "Puff-Piece"?

Mehr: No, actually it's called Forever.

Dominic: That's because it goes on forever.

Blake: Yeah, the song is eternal.

Dean Martin
"Everybody Loves Somebody"
As a final treat, the snobs were given a chance to listen and comment on a rarely heard version of Dean Martin's 1964 hit as it appears on the newly issued Late at Night With Dean Martin.

Dominic: This is great. This is the version that was on Dream With Dean -- it was billed as the "intimate Dean Martin album." It doesn't have any of those overwrought strings or the "young Caucasian" back-up singers screwing it up.

Mehr: And listen to how his voice breaks. I've never heard that. He usually just glides through all his songs.

Dominic: Or sleepwalks through them like his old variety show.

Mehr: Or one of his celebrity roasts.

Dominic: Fortunately, Foster Brooks can't fuck this song up with one of his lame routines.

Mehr: Blake, you've been pretty quiet. What do you think of old Dino?

Blake: (looking genuinely excited) This guinea can sing!

Dominic: Yeah, it's doo-wop, without the doo.

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